Sprint Nextel’s LTE network is set to officially launch July 15, with initial coverage to include portions of Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Kansas City, and San Antonio. The carrier has been hyping its LTE moves since last October, with the network deployment included as part of its ambitious Network Vision initiative. The initial launch markets were included in Sprint Nextel’s previous announcement for its initial 10 markets.
The LTE launch will place the carrier on equal footing, at least in basic marketing, with larger rivals Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility, which have been aggressively expanding their respective LTE coverage. The move also puts Sprint Nextel into the LTE game ahead of an expected fall launch of Apple’s latest iPhone device that most predict will include LTE capability.
The launch also keeps Sprint Nextel on track for its planned mid-2012 launch, followed by 250 million potential customers covered by the end of 2013. The carrier announced earlier this week that it was set to re-hire 240 employees that had previously been moved to Ericsson as part of a network reorganization plan. A Sprint Nextel spokeswoman said the transfer should be complete by the end of July. Ericsson, which is handling the Network Vision work with Alcatel-Lucent and Samsung, is on the hook for the network upgrade for most of the initial LTE launch markets.
Sprint Nextel’s LTE network will initially rely on 10 megahertz of spectrum in the 1.9 GHz G-Block spectrum band. The carrier said it plans on eventually re-farming other spectrum bands in support of the service, including plans to use its 800 MHz spectrum. The band is currently supporting its iDEN network, which is set to be shuttered by mid-2013, as well as recently launched CDMA2000 1x-Advanced services.
The carrier has already been seen seeding the market with LTE-enabled devices, including smartphones and wireless modems.
Sprint Nextel’s LTE network is crucial to its ability to compete at least on a marketing level with larger rivals Verizon Wireless and AT&T Mobility. As was seen with its initial move into the “4G” marketing space with its WiMAX offering, a significant segment of wireless consumers are drawn to the latest and greatest technologies, even if they have no idea what they are or how they benefit them.
Sprint Nextel’s next battle will be to prove that its LTE service is on par with its larger rivals despite the use of approximately half the spectrum assets. Improving coverage will also be key in terms of marketing and customer satisfaction, which could prove a challenge in the short term due to the carrier’s use of 1.9 GHz spectrum for the initial LTE rollout.